Senate Bill Looks To Increase Access to Telehealth in Rural Areas
Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) have introduced a bipartisan bill (S 2343) to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth services in rural areas by boosting telehealth projects at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, mHealth Intelligence reports.
The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act would require:
- HHS to allow hospitals to test new telehealth programs through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; and
- CMMI to evaluate new telehealth models based on cost, effectiveness and care improvements (Wicklund, mHealth Intelligence, 12/3).
According to Politico's "Morning eHealth," telehealth services could be greatly expanded across the health care system if proven to save money under CMMI's demonstration projects program (Tahir, "Morning eHealth," Politico, 12/3).
If the bill is approved, Peters said a pilot program would be implemented before launching nationwide reforms (ABC 10 News, 12/3).
Peters said, "Telemedicine has the power to increase access to specialized services in underserved communities, and potentially lower costs and improve patient outcomes."
Meanwhile, Gardner said the bill could "pave the way for Medicare to expand coverage to additional telehealth services, and potentially provide those living with life-threatening conditions in rural America with more opportunities and more options to receive the care they need," as well as "incentivize the industry to develop cutting-edge technology" (mHealth Intelligence, 12/3).
The bill already has received support from some industry trade groups, according to "Morning eHealth" ("Morning eHealth," Politico, 12/3).
More Telehealth Legislation Coming
Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is expected to introduce a separate bill later this month that would allow providers to use telehealth tools in alternative payment programs overseen by CMS, mHealth Intelligence reports.
For example, the bill would facilitate telestroke programs covered by Medicaid Advantage.
During a webinar this week, American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous said Schatz's legislation "is imminent" (mHealth Intelligence, 12/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.